By Michelle Crystal Phan, March 12 2021–
Amidst the pandemic, the unprovoked and growing hate crime incidents targeting Asian-Canadian and Asian-American communities have created great threats and fear. A study shows that within the past year, Asian-Canadians are more likely to report an increase in racial harassment towards them. The trend in these assaults has targeted elderly Asian individuals more frequently, such as Vicha Ratanapakdee, an 84-year-old immigrant from Thailand, who was assaulted without provocation and later died of his injuries in San Francisco. His death was a big push towards raising awareness of such attacks towards Asian elders, especially in larger cities within the United States. Although anti-Asian hate crimes within the US are more heard of, Canada is not any less immune. In 2020, Vancouver recorded an 878 per cent rise in Asian-targeted hate crimes compared to the year prior — and numbers continue to rise. There is a damaging connection between the pandemic and anti-Asian assaults and the media isn’t covering it as extensively as it should.
A big component in the alarming rise in these targeted assaults is propagated from the increasing xenophobic blame placed upon Asian-Americans and -Canadians for the rise and spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Former President Donald Trump referred to COVID-19 as the “Kung Flu”, popularizing the association between the virus and Asian communities. Such associations have been normalized, further perpetuating anti-Asian rhetorics. These attacks are rooted in the Yellow Peril, a form of xenophobia that insinuates that Eastern Asian individuals and communities are a threat to the Western world. Believing the narrative that all Chinese people carry the virus and are somehow responsible for its emergence further alienates the community, fostering hostile attacks. At the end of the day, it is blatantly harmful, racist and xenophobic mindsets that foster a hatred deep enough to instigate violence.
Additional to the physical assaults towards Asian individuals, there are other implications from the growing animosity and hostility towards these communities. Many Asian-owned businesses have been vandalized. An example of this is from a Chinese restaurant in downtown Calgary which got set on fire and graffitied with racial slurs in the first couple of months at the start of the pandemic last year. Customer interest in Chinese restaurants started to decline in the United States — compared to Italian or American cuisine — within the first couple months of the pandemic, due to the belief that there’s an association between the Asian community and the virus. The alienation of Asian-Canadian and -American communities is dehumanizing and so is seeing Asian people more as a virus than rightful citizens of these countries.
With such a broad and deeply embedded prejudice, how can you show your support and solidarity for the Asian-Canadian and -American communities?
One of the biggest things to do is to listen. Listen to the stories and feelings of those who are affected by racist and xenophobic comments and actions. Validating their experiences becomes important as the normalization of racism towards Asian people can downplay this situation and the feelings of those in the community.
A direct action that can be taken is to condemn the use of harmful rhetoric. Refusing racially-charged labels and connotations can help avoid normalizing an association between the Asian community and COVID-19. Educating yourself and those around you as to why these phrases are harmful can spread awareness and reduce the commonality of anti-Asian mindsets. The Calgary Vietnamese Youth Association and Calgary Vietnamese Women’s Association are great sources that help educate Canadians on the topic, posting anti-Asian racism content which includes contacts for hotlines, general information and community support within the heart of Calgary.
You can also help support organizations that are playing a big role in spreading awareness and directly helping the community in the United States. Many cities within California have experienced Asian-related hate crimes within the past year. Compassion in Oakland is an organization in Oakland, California that gathers volunteer chaperones to accompany Asian-Americans towards their destinations around the city in case they feel unsafe to do so alone. You can donate here to help support the volunteers and those running the organization. The Vietnamese American Community Centre of the East Bay (VACCEB) has provided hundreds of thousands of meals for many elderly Asian individuals within the community of Oakland as well. They are currently accepting donations as their community centre was recently burned down and is in need of extra funding to rebuild.
Throughout such discouraging times, solidarity for the Asian community tremendously supports the fight against xenophobic and racist intentions that are being propagated during this pandemic.